breaking news from the world of ideas

by Freddie Sayers
Tuesday, 17
September 2019

Could the Lib Dems outflank the Tories on the Right?

New recruits Chuka Umunna and Sam Gyimah were the stars of the Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth, mobbed wherever they went for selfies with delegates. It marks an extraordinary up-ending of that party’s philosophy.

It wasn’t very long ago that hatred of Tony Blair, in particular the Iraq War, was an animating instinct of the Liberal Democrat Party. His slickness and ideological lightness was the opposite of the Lib Dem brand – the home of geeks and outsiders, somewhat tortured, but well-meaning and deeply sincere. I remember discovering a strong statistical correlation in 2014 between voting Lib Dem and being a fan of sci-fi fiction: it oddly made sense for people who liked to imagine a very different kind of world. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Monday, 16
September 2019

Watch: the lone Lib Dem speaking out against revoking Article 50

Niall Hodson is a Lib Dem councillor from Sunderland – which voted 61-39 in favour of Brexit in 2016 – and he took to the stage at the Lib Dem conference in Bournemouth to argue *against* the adoption of the new Lib Dem policy of revoking Article 50 and cancelling Brexit without a referendum. The policy was overwhelmingly supported and he won’t make the mainstream news reports - but it's a powerful warning which he delivered with good humour. He even got some applause at the end. Here are his key arguments: ... Continue reading
by Freddie Sayers
Wednesday, 11
September 2019

Charles Clarke interview: what we got wrong on globalisation

Charles Clarke was home secretary in Tony Blair’s government during the crucial years of 2004-2006, during which time citizens of the new EU accession countries became eligible to move to the UK under freedom of movement. Instead of making use of the delay and control mechanisms that the UK could have implemented under EU law to slow the rate of immigration from Eastern Europe, the government had an open border policy.

I caught up with him at last week’s Big Tent Ideas Festival and asked whether he now regrets that, as some people identify a renewed hostility to the EU – and the beginning of Brexit – to that period, particularly in such as Lincolnshire with high numbers of Eastern European immigrants. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Thursday, 5
September 2019

Tom Tugendhat interview: is ‘National Conservatism’ coming to the UK?

What constitutes a “real” Conservative? This is a question that people have been asking this week, since the expulsion of 21 Tory MPs from the parliamentary party.

For anyone minded to take a moment out from the hourly procedural dramas, here’s an interview I did with Tom Tugendhat over the weekend about the future of Conservatism. He’s an interesting character in all this – thought of as on the ‘wet’ side on Brexit, but not as dramatically so as Rory Stewart (he didn’t join the rebels this week). He’s one of countless ambitious Tory MPs who are desperate to get past Brexit so they can start talking about other things. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Tuesday, 3
September 2019

Lisa Nandy: Why I don’t regret not supporting the deal

Lisa Nandy has been one of the voices from the Labour benches most in favour of finding a compromise over Brexit. Representing the overwhelmingly pro-Leave constituency of Wigan, she was one of a group of Labour MPs that those of us who supported Theresa May’s deal had hoped would eventually swing behind it and get the deal through parliament. Famously, she never quite got there, and we are where we are.

Does she now regret it?

I sat down with her at the Big Tent Ideas Festival over the weekend, and asked her. In fact, I virtually implored her to say she regretted it, but no such luck. Her answer was somewhat surprising – and hinges on a technicality: although it is commonly said that the deal was rejected by parliament three times, these were only the “meaningful votes” that the government was mandated to introduce, prior to introducing the bill itself. These she voted against, but say she would have supported the bill once the details had been thrashed out in “second reading.” ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Monday, 2
September 2019

Vernon Bogdanor: it’s not the Government’s fault

Last Friday, constitutional expert Vernon Bogdanor delivered his verdict in an article in the Guardian on the Government’s proroguing of Parliament. He sounded distinctly supportive of the move, and the piece was widely shared among members of the Cabinet and other prominent Brexiteers.

We caught up with him over the weekend at the Big Tent Ideas Festival to see if he stood his ground in the wake of the controversy. Spoiler alert: he does.

He doesn’t think it’s a constitutional crisis and he puts the blame squarely on those MPs who didn’t support the Theresa May’s deal at the time. Punchy stuff. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Monday, 2
September 2019
Seen Elsewhere

Welcome to The Post

UnHerd is booming. I don’t know how many online publications have seen their traffic increase nearly *threefold* over the past twelve months, but UnHerd must be one of the fastest growing in the UK. It has become a go-to source of original and fearless thinking – and that’s more needed than ever.

Today, we are launching The Post – in “beta”, which means it’s still a work in progress. Think of it like the UnHerd fast lane. It’s a new space where our editors and contributors can highlight interesting developments in the world of ideas, and share thoughts in a more casual way. We’ll also be doing more video interviews, and experimenting with some new formats. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Monday, 17
June 2019

David Brooks: “Social freedom is not a good feeling”

The NYT columnist discusses how to make life – and politics – more meaningful

When politicians start talking about the meaning of life they often come unstuck. From Gordon Brown’s aborted British values project to Cameron’s doomed Big Society agenda, when our political leaders stray away from economics into questions of what gives a person a sense of belonging or purpose, they often sound absurd, and sometimes sinister. Generally they fail. But since the vote for Brexit, these questions have returned once again into the political mainstream. It seems they can’t be ignored.

David Brooks, perhaps the New York Times’ most famous political columnist, addresses them in his latest book, The Second Mountain. With it, he has turned from the political to this more personal, spiritual territory. The experience of his own mid-life crisis, he says, has given him insight into both individual and societal renewal – how we can identify and climb a second ‘mountain’ of life after losing heart in the first. ...  Continue reading